Monday, January 21, 2008
At this point in my life, I still have a lot of questions about my identity. Of course I have better things to do then sit around all day with the question "Who am I?" rolling around in my head (by the way, this sort of "finding myself" thinking is not usually humored in Chinese culture). However, I still have to ask myself this question sometimes because it helps me figure out what sort of person I am and what I want to do with my life. Suddenly, the appeal of labels comes to mind. If human beings (my husband makes fun of me because it always sounds like I'm saying "human beans", but I digress) were as simple as the sum of their "labels", life would be a whole lot easier. Take the label "Christian." When we think of the word Christian as a label, one adjective that comes to mind is "conservative". However, I am usually not politically conservative except for when it comes to abortion. So already, I am far more complicated then what my Christian label would suggest.
I think of labels as hats. It would be so much easier if simply putting on a certain hat (be it Christian, woman, Christian woman, whatever) would relieve me of all duties of thinking and responsibility. I wouldn't have to question what I believed because the hat would make it clear. When I stray from the path that my hat dictates, I can no longer wear it. Then I have to forge my own identity -- it's a lot more work! Ahhh, work. That's exactly what we're avoiding when we reduce people to hats, or labels if you will. If I categorize someone in my mind as a (insert label here), then I don't have to do as much work to get to know them -- I already know everything worth knowing! I think people like to say that I, as a Christian woman, have a certain hat that I have to wear. It's easier for everyone when people just accept their hat with grace and dignity, but it doesn't leave a lot of room for personal growth or a unique relationship with God. When people tell me that all Christian women have to wear the same hat, they are putting a burden on me that Jesus never meant for me to carry. I know many people disagree with me, but I'm okay with that.
Because I realize I don't have all the answers and that I have been wrong before, sometimes I try on different hats for fun. For the past couple of weeks, I tried on the Christian woman hat (I'm referring to the stereotype of a Christian woman -- of course I know that not every Christian woman is really like this). Although I hate cooking and could think of a million other things that I would rather be doing, I tried forcing myself to like it. I even asked my husband if he wanted to try being the leader of our household for awhile (we have never done this before, but I was curious to see how the other half lived). I asked God to show me if this was how He wants me to live, and I have to say I don't think it really was. I found the whole situation to be lacking in so many ways. I wasn't growing, I wasn't being challenged, and I wasn't using all of the gifts that God has given me. My husband was disappointed too (although he never agreed to taking on the main leadership role). For one thing, it isn't that beneficial to cook your own food in Taipei. Food is so much cheaper here, and you're not really saving that much money when you cook your own food for just two people. Instead, you're going through all the pain and suffering of cooking for nothing. The time I spent cooking could have been spent learning Chinese, researching things for my students, exercising, or going out with my husband.
I realized that I was wearing a very heavy hat indeed, and to be honest, I don't believe that it says anywhere in the Bible that I am commanded to wear this hat. Now, before I get a whole slurry of comments, let me say a few things. I have been referring to the calling of being a stay-at-home wife/mom as a hat because to me that's what it was. However, I have nothing but respect and admiration for the women who are indeed passionate about this vocation, and for them it truly is a calling. I do believe that it takes creativity and ingenuity, and a life spent pursuing that is not by any means wasted. I also believe that men and women are different and have different strengths and weaknesses. However, I do not believe that as a Christian wife there is only one clearly defined path laid out for me in the Bible. This is all I am going to say about this matter because I don't intend to make this an egalitarian blog. Many of you probably never knew I felt this way because I don't have time to squabble about these secondary issues when I am surrounded by people dying without knowing Christ. Many of my Christian sisters disagree with me on these issues, and I don't love them any less for it. This post was merely me writing about what I've been experiencing these past few weeks, not an invitation to argue. I hope you're all having a fine day. God bless you all!